1.20.2005

out of darkness

This week, Bob Herbert says he feels the absence of Dr King more than ever. On what would have been King's 76th birthday (he was only 39 when he was murdered), Herbert attended a reading at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, "the spiritual home (and primary safe house)" of King and the early civil rights movement.

The reading, by Martin Sheen, Lynn Redgrave, Alfre Woodard, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson and others, was Ariel Dorfman's "Speak Truth to Power: Voices From Beyond the Dark," which is based on the book "Speak Truth to Power," by Kerry Kennedy and the photographer Eddie Adams.

The book and the play are excerpts from interviews with people who have defended human rights all over the world. Herbert writes:
The most hopeful thing to be drawn from Mr. Dorfman's play and Ms. Kennedy's book is that effective leadership can come from anywhere, at any time. From my perspective, this is a dark moment in American history. The Treasury has been raided and the loot is being turned over by the trainload to those who are already the richest citizens in the land. We've launched a hideous war for no good reason in Iraq. And we're about to elevate to the highest law enforcement position in the land a man who helped choreograph the American effort to evade the international prohibitions against torture.

Never since his assassination in 1968 have I felt the absence of Martin Luther King more acutely. Where are today's voices of moral outrage? Where is the leadership willing to stand up and say: Enough! We've sullied ourselves enough.

I'm convinced, without being able to prove it, that those voices will emerge. There was a time when no one had heard of Dr. King. Or Oscar Arias Sanchez. Or Martin O'Brien, who founded the foremost human rights organization in Northern Ireland, and who tells us: "The worst thing is apathy - to sit idly by in the face of injustice and to do nothing about it."

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